The initial wave of VR was held back by the need for expensive desktop PCs to supply the computing power. At Computex 2017, we’re seeing that cost come down significantly. Dell is doing their part with the Inspiron Gaming Desktop, a tower PC with AMD CPUs and GPUs, that starts at just $600.
That’s super cheap, but you’re still getting pretty good computing power. It’s one of many machines running on AMD processors that we’re seeing at Computex, and you’ve got quite a few to choose from. On the lower end (so, what you’ll find on that $600 rig), there’s the quad-core A10 or A12 processor, which both have integrated Radeon R7 graphics. That’s not going to be great for desktop performance, and the integrated GPU is likely why the starting price is so cheap, so keep that in mind.
Still, the higher-end configurations shouldn’t break the bank. There’s the Ryzen 5 1400 processor, the Ryzen 5 1600X, and the octa-core Ryzen 7 1700X, which can be configured with an AMD Radeon RX560, RX570, or RX580 GPU — or an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, because this couldn’t just be an all-AMD party. Without diving too deep into the numbers, that Ryzen 7 processor is going to be great if you plan on gaming and streaming simultaneously. If you just want high-end gaming, the Ryzen 5 options should be good enough. Regardless of what you choose, you can get up to 32 GB of RAM.
Lots of storage options, too. You can get up to a 2 TB HDD on its own, or combine that with an M.2 SSD up to 256 GB. The SSD option will make booting and loading faster. There are USB 2.0 and 3.1 ports, a card reader, audio ports, and an HDMI port, along with an optional disc drive. Dell has also added Waves Maxx Audio Pro processing, which can power 7.1 channel sound.
The case looks pretty neat, too. As an option, you can get polar blue LEDs that shine out from behind the front grille, which gives it a cool, metallic look. Hopefully the coolness should extend to the inside, too — Dell has both fan and liquid cooling options, and they’ve used SenseMi technology to proactively adjust cooling to make sure the processors don’t get damaged.
It’s an interesting gambit on Dell’s part. It’s worth noting that while the purpose of the desktop is gaming (hey, it’s right there in the name), it’s not a part of Dell’s gamer-centric Alienware brand. Instead of trying to go after the enthusiasts, Dell is hoping erstwhile gamers who want to try out VR will see this is a cheaper option to the superpowered rigs that cost well upwards of a thousand.
Still, a desktop might have trouble making it as a mainstream product in 2017. For one, it’s not just the price — desktops are still very large and heavy, and it’s not something a lot of people are going to want around if they can help it. Considering that the cheaper options for this desktop have closer to laptop specs, it might make more sense to just grab a mid-tier gaming laptop. After all, $600 is cheap, but you still have to buy a monitor, too.
But, there’s one enduring advantage to desktops — they can always be upgraded. If you decide down the road that you want more power or faster storage, you can buy the individual components and install them yourself. In that way, the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop isn’t a bad idea — if this ends up being a starter VR machine that gets someone hooked, they don’t have to get a new device just to get more power like they would with a laptop.